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|Mujib Ur Rahman||10.0||1||43||0||4.30|
India continued its dominance in the Asia Cup as it became the first side to lock up a place in the finals. India’s second match against Pakistan required them to score more runs than the first match but they hardly even broke a sweat. Now, with their last match against Afghanistan a mere formality, there may be some room in the side for some experimentation and giving some people on the bench a go.
Afghanistan, on the other hand, has no chance of making the finals. They lost another last-over thriller against Bangladesh and will be playing for just pride in its last encounter. Afghanistan has shown beyond doubt in this competition that it cannot be taken lightly so India needs to be on guard against an Afghan upset.
India’s first match against Hong Kong seems like such an aberration now after they have demolished Pakistan twice and Bangladesh as well. There has been a lot to like about India’s performances in this match and the manner in which Rohit Sharma has led the team.
After winning a close game against Hong Kong, India changed tack and started to choose even though it meant fielding in the Dubai heat. The pitch clearly becomes better at night and the Indian batsmen were able to take full advantage of being asked to chase in the last game as well.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been unstoppable in this tournament. On conditions such as these where there is nothing in it for the bowlers, it is hard to imagine a more dangerous opening pair in the world.
They have got India off to a good start in each game and are the two highest run-scorers of the tournament currently. These two have been followed by the dependable Ambati Rayadu who is slowly but surely cementing his place in the playing eleven.
Rayadu may have to slot in at number four for India in the long run and that would not be a bad thing at all. In this series, India has Dinesh Karthik batting at 4 followed by Dhoni, Jadhav, and Jadeja.
This is an untested middle order that failed to up the scoring when it got the chance against Hong Kong. Afghanistan or any future opponent may want to put India in and try to test out their middle order because that is the only possible weak spot in the batting right now.
India has also been the best bowling attack of this tournament by far. India has a trio of world-class spinners in Kuldeep, Chahal, and Jadeja. The two wrist spinners are the better wicket-taking options while Jadeja is consistent and adds so much in the field as well.
The most impressive bowler in our opinion has been Jasprit Bumrah. His ability to bowl yorkers was visible in the last match and it was just unbelievable. No one else in the world can claim to bowl the yorker at a high pace with quite the consistency that Bumrah can. He is as important to India’s fortunes as Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma.
We expect to see India rest Bumrah, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, and a couple of batsmen for the Afghanistan match with Khaleel, Chahar, and Lokesh Rahul the likely beneficiaries.
Whatever side India puts out on the field, it is going to be a real handful for the Afghans.
Lokesh Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Deepak Chahar, Siddarth Kaul, Kuldeep Yadav, Khaleel Ahmed.
Afghanistan has played some truly wonderful cricket in this tournament and they can count themselves desperately unlucky not to be competing in the Asia Cup finals 2018. The team smashed Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the group stages, pushed Pakistan and Bangladesh in the Super 4 stage to the last over, and will now end its campaign against India.
There are two major things to consider from Afghanistan’s point of view before going into this match. The first is their own motivation. Afghanistan is no longer a team that comes to just make up the numbers. It comes to qualify, to win, and now it will not be able to do that anymore. A dead rubber can often the sap the motivation from the team and make them go through the motions.
The other consideration is the fact that India is likely to rest some of its key players. Afghanistan beat an under-strength Bangladesh team by a massive margin. Can it do the same against India? Afghanistan will know that beating India, the strongest side of the tournament so far, will cause the world to take notice. For a side that has been starved of good quality competition for so long, this could be the perfect statement to make.
Afghanistan has had a very set plan going into this tournament. They like to bat in a sedate manner till the last ten overs, accelerate, and then hope to reach a score of around 250. The team believes that this is a score that they can defend or chase down if necessary.
It’s hard to argue with this line of thinking because a little luck on their side would have seen them unbeaten in the tournament up until now. We have no doubt that Afghanistan will continue the same strategy against India.
There are unlikely to be too many changes in the Afghanistan side for this match. There is a reserve wicket-keeper, whom we would like to see play, but Mohammad Shahzad has been scoring runs and is unlikely to want to step back now.
The team also needs its players like Ihsanullah, Rahmat Shah, and Shahidi to score runs. Hashmatullah Shahidi has been very good in the tournament and is the third highest scorer overall. He bats slow and ensures that Afghanistan has at least one set batsmen around which to attack.
Mohammad Nabi played a good cameo in a losing cause last night. He is batting too low for our liking but that is the role he seems to have been assigned in the team.
Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, and Mohammad Nabi will all be well versed with the Indian batting lineup thanks to the IPL. These three are going to be the biggest threat to the Indians in this game but the pacers must also provide good support as well.
Afghanistan has nothing to lose in this game but it could gain a lot. We are hoping to see them come out and play fearless cricket in the manner that they have been so far.
M Shahzad, MJ Ahmadi, R Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Asghar Stanikzai, N Zadran, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Aftab Alam, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
The team winning the toss is likely to bat first
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The Dubai International Cricket Stadium has provided very consistent surfaces throughout this tournament. The pitch is a little slow and offers nothing to the bowlers. The fast bowlers need to be very accurate, the spinners need to work hard to get any purchase, and the batsmen also need to be set before playing the big shots.
Batting appears to be slightly easier under the lights. There is no threat of rain.
India has shown itself to be a class above all other teams in this tournament. Afghanistan, we believe is the second best side of this tournament. It has the bowlers to cause an upset but the lack of batting experience could hold it back against a world-class Indian bowling attack.
We expect a close match but India to eventually win.
Back India to win.